C.E.C.C.| Shepherds Cot | Crouch End | North London | N8 8JJ
As our good unbeaten run has progressed and turned in to a genuine back-to-back promotion push, one fixture has loomed on the horizon – Osterley away. They are traditionally strong and we have traditionally struggled against them, including losing a tight game earlier this season. With just a few weeks remaining, Saturday’s showdown with them was a pivotal moment and one that defines how the rest of our season progresses.
After a couple of late movements between the XIs we turned up at Osterley to be pleasantly surprised by their improved facilities. Anyone that has played there will recall the dark, dank changing rooms and toilets that rivalled that one in Trainspotting. Now, Phase 1 of their upgrade sees fresh clean changing rooms each with their own shower and toilet facilities. Very nice.
In the last two weeks the toss has proved crucial - both were lost and we were sent to bat, before just failing to bowl our opponents out to win. On Saturday, the toss was won and the easy decision to bowl was taken, despite the prospect of a hot afternoon. Quayum and Ricardo opened up aiming to recreate their exploits from the last few weeks.
It was tough going against good batsmen. We were going to have to work very hard and keep chipping away to restrict them. Ricardo struck first as the more expansive of the two openers tried to repeat his six from the previous over and put one straight to Keith at long on. Hikky, who has done very well for the 4s during the last two weeks, replaced Quayum and he struck almost immediately with an LBW to remove the other more stubborn opener.
Ricardo then claimed the prized wicket of Salman, the dangerous Osterley batsmen who always scores plenty of runs and had 91 and 99 in his last two innings. He clubbed a drive straight to Khairul at silly mid-off for just 18. Then Hassan and Hikky combined for a run out, which saw a slightly wayward throw brilliantly flicked down on to the stumps by Hikky with the batsmen a long way out. At 85-4 at drinks, things could have gone either way.
Next came the key stand of the innings as the captain and number five added over 80 as Hikky tired, I continued with my recent struggles and Moh was initially ineffective. Enter Hassan. He first removed the skipper with a ball that clipped the top of off stump and then the number five for a well made 62 thanks to a good catch by Hikky at mid-on.
Then our persistence and hard work paid off as Osterley fell away at the end. Hassan grabbed two more to finish with four – one thanks to a great diving caught and bowled, the other bowled – Moh getting two wickets thanks to good catches by Jon at deep midwicket and Ricardo at mid-off. Osterley 194 all out in 42.3 overs. We had done well to restrict them to under 200, especially after being 160-4 at one point.
Our reply did not begin well. Osterley started with a wily spinner at one end and he quickly bowled Keith with one that did not bounce as expected. Soon after Khairul had a rare failure in his exceptional season as he hit one straight to mid-on from the same bowler. Jon became his third victim as he mistimed a drive off the bottom of his bat to mid-off. We were 39-3. A couple more wickets now and we would be in deep trouble, even with our long batting line up.
This brought Tom and Kamlesh together for the first of two match-winning partnerships – both settled in, took their time and picked off bad balls. Both looked classy and the score began to progress. Tom was scoring faster as Kamlesh dropped anchor. The combination was exactly what we needed. Tom brought up his deserved half century before getting out shortly after. The partnership has added 58.
The next partnership was even bigger. Hassan joined Kamlesh and after a watchful start, he started to play his shots. The score was ticking along, overs were ticking down and Osterley were getting more worried and exasperated, especially after a number of LBW appeals were turned down. Both batsmen were playing superbly, defending some tight bowling well and dispatching the bad balls. Just after Kamlesh reached in 50, Hassan was out for a good 37. The pair had put on 80 and we were 20 runs away.
Quayum was out shortly after for a couple and it was left to Kamlesh to see us home. In what turned out to be the final over he brutally punished Osterley promising looking colt and finished the match with a huge six in to theadjoining hay meadow. He finished on a magnificent 70 not out and we had won by four wickets with four overs to spare. As it turned out, we had paced our innings perfectly despite the bad start.
Simply put, this is a huge result. It was important not to lose to Osterley to keep our season alive. To beat them, and with such a professional team performance, is extremely pleasing and puts us in a great position going in to the last four weeks. We must now make sure that we do not falter against relegation-threatened Finchley next week, especially as Osterley play fourth-placed Indian Gymkana also that day.
We are now nine matches unbeaten after six wins and three winning draws. We have put ourselves right in the promotion picture and this win rivalled that vs. Hampstead. Osterley are a good side and while it was a good all-round team effort, there must be special mention for four players who came in to the side this week and contributed so much – Hassan, Hikky, Kamlesh and Tom.
Hassan and Hikky are both unlucky to have been dropped to the 4s in recent weeks having done nothing wrong but both turned up with an excellent attitude and did very well. Kamlesh was a very late call-up from the 4s and showed similar attitude, was the rock we needed in the middle of our reply and played a classy innings that saw us home. Tom, having played in the 2s earlier this year before a lay-off, kept well and batted even better. All tapped in to the team spirit and ethic that we have created and added quality.
There is the famous quote that captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill. On Saturday, I felt very lucky as the cards all fell the correct way. Now let’s carry on and see what we can achieve.
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